MONTREAL — New Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry was tight-lipped about his coaching staff or roster for the 2020 season, but opened up on how he wants his team to play during his introductory press conference Monday.
The 1998 World Cup champion did not want to name who would join his coaching staff. Instead, Henry stated there would be some new faces on the Impact’s bench. However, Henry gave raving comments about two members of the 2019 staff: Patrice Bernier and Wilfried Nancy.
“Pat, he’s the child of the club. I’ve met him at the All-Star Game, he might have came in late a few times, but that’s okay,” Henry said, jokingly. “He was a very intelligent player that sees the game, that knows the league. He also knows the pressure for local players that are here sometimes because it’s not always easy to play at home.”
“Not only Pat, but also Wil, who has been there for a while. He knows the academy players, it’s really important to have people like that in the club,” Henry added.
Henry later told 98.5 FM Bernier would be “part of the staff, that’s for sure.”
Henry arrives in Montreal knowing big spending will not be a guarantee and doesn’t see that as an issue.
“For me, [money] is not a problem,” he said. “If there is that help and we can do something, it’s better, but I played in this league. The teams that win aren’t always the teams with the biggest budgets or that can bring in players.”
The former New York Red Bulls star referenced the 2019 MLS Cup final, and champions from his time in the league, as examples.
“The final was Seattle-Toronto when everybody thought it would be LAFC-Atlanta United,” he said. “In my year in MLS, the teams that won were Sporting Kansas City, I’m not going to name all of them. But to create this club identity, whether or not we have the finances or the great players, I think it’s important to create a team with a good balance.”
Impact sporting director Olivier Renard added “a player like [Henry] would also be welcome, but we’ll see about that later.”
Focussing on the players on his squad, Henry acknowledged Ignacio Piatti’s contributions. Impact president and CEO Kevin Gilmore reiterated the club will exercise Piatti’s option for the 2020 season, but the Argentine’s future remains blurry. In an interview with TSN 690 AM, Henry recognized this was an important dossier for the Impact.
“We’re talking about one of the greats of this league, one of the greats definitely for this city,” Henry said. “This is a subject that is not going to be taken lightly. We all know what he does represent for this city, but there’s a strategy and position and we’ll see what’s gonna happen from that.”
Henry shrugged when asked to evaluate his players during his press conference, instead opting to talk about the team as a whole. He said the focus is often too much on individuals and less on how a squad works together.
“That’s the most important for me, you can never win a title if the team isn’t there,” he said. “There are quality players on this team. I’ve played with one, Bojan, there are some that I saw that were more than exemplary in this league. But for me, it’s the team before all.”
Henry spoke about wanting to try and build a legacy for the Impact and that it would not happen overnight. The Frenchman also wants his team to play possession football and build from the defensive third, but is also conscious that MLS doesn’t always offer that possibility.
“All of the teams that I’ve played for generally tried to played the possession game, so the philosophy is there,” Henry said. “But I also know that in this league, from time to time, you won’t be able to do that. You need to try and have a Plan B within the plan a and see what we can do if we can’t play the way we want.”